In the early 1870s, a brand-new business district rose around a railroad crossing just east of Dallas. The area was called Deep Ellum: "Deep" because of its distance from the courthouse square, and "Ellum" because of the way its original residents pronounced "Elm." Theatres like the now famous Majestic housed popular vaudeville shows, while musicians like Alex Moore, Buster Smith, Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter and Blind Willie Johnson blazed trails for blues artists in Dallas and beyond.
In 1925, soon-to-be Deep Ellum legend Blind Lemon Jefferson became one of the first blues musician to record his music. Soon after, the Shelton Brothers came to Deep Ellum to record the first of many "Deep Ellum Blues." The 1930s saw the arrival of Western swing and hot fiddle bands, with Bob Wills and Roy Newman not far behind. Many of the musicians that followed were heavily influenced by the blues innovators of Deep Ellum's 1920s era, and while the area went into decline with the Great Depression, this business district by the railroad was destined to rise and reclaim its status as a neighborhood made by and for diverse artists.